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Mayor Tom Barrett give city a pep talk. (PHOTO: Jeff Sherman )

Mayor gives city a pep talk


OK, Milwaukee.

You've got your pep talk for the new year.

That's what Mayor Tom Barrett did Monday with his latest "State of the City" message at the historic Prizlaff Building in downtown Milwaukee.

Barrett gives his annual speech about the city's status every year since elected mayor in 2004 but this one had an additional sense of urgency given the current economic and political challenges facing Wisconsin's largest city.

Barrett seemed to acknowledge those concerns during his speech, which addressed many of the current economic difficulties that stunt the city's potential while at the same time exhorting some of the town's most promising future projects designed to tap into our greater potential.

Yes, that's a lot for one speech. But politicians are used to this kind of stuff.

Barrett did a good job of addressing the elephant in the room, which is the fact that the city has too many foreclosed properties, mainly individual home-owners who have been rendered unable to keep up with payments due to lost income or downsizing.

He pointed out that many of the neighborhoods with the most home foreclosures are also the areas with the highest crime rate, which just emphasized the importance of having more solid middle class households with good jobs.

He talked about his views on transportation, including more street cars that will add to the downtown and local areas by providing an affordable way for residents to travel about the city.

He said he often hears people asking why Milwaukee doesn't already have a street car or rail system like in other comparable cities.

Barrett touted Milwaukee as a future hub of growth in exciting new industries including those devoted to providing more fresh water, a job growth area that strikes some as much more forward-thinking and more eco-friendly than the state's plan to develop mining in upstate Wisconsin

Barrett made news with a passionate vow to keep the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee at the BMO Bradley Center or someplace else, which is gratifying news to local sports fans who realize that having an NBA franchise is an immeasurable bonus for a city in terms of public image.

"I want Milwaukee to be the home of the Milwaukee Bucks for decades to come," said Barrett, although he also noted it can't be just a burden on city or Milwaukee county taxpayers.

Barrett said the Bucks were a regional asset that benefited more than just Milwaukee.

I agree; say what you want, but a city with both a major league baseball team and a professional basketball team can't ever be underestimated on a national stage.

If we ever lost the Bucks, I think Milwaukeeans would finally realize you don't miss a good thing until it's gone.

Barrett took on Gov. Scott Walker's recent pledge to end residency requirements in Milwaukee and every other place in Wisconsin by pointing out the fragile nature of the city's housing market and the need for big cities to keep control of their own rules.

"Leave residency a local issue, leave it out of the budget," he urged state legislators.

Barrett's pep talk was standard procedure for a state of the city address but in these increasingly challenging times, the state of Milwaukee is more important than ever.

This year, getting a pep talk from the mayor is more like getting a wake-up call.

Talkbacks

mikeb | Feb. 28, 2013 at 8:57 p.m. (report)

Are the Bucks really a regional asset? A few points to ponder: - If the Bucks sold out every single one of their games they would draw 750,000 fans. Contrast this to the Brewers who are capable of drawing 3,000,000 fans. - The location directly across the street from the BC can't even stay in business. If the Bucks are such a boom to the economy wouldn't that be successful. I like the NBA, but I'm not sure how you can justify a guy down in Kenosha paying for a new arena. Put it this way, if the arena was being built anywhere but the City there's no way the Mayor would support a regional tax.

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